Children with fever, when to worry

Children with fever, when to worry

Fever in children can be worrying for the parents. We can understand why: although rare a fever could be a sign of something serious. We are writing this article to help parents understand fever and give advice to when they should bring a child in for a review.

Fever is extremely common in children.

Fever is our body’s normal response to fight an infection. Studies have shown that fever makes it difficult for a microorganism to multiply and some part of our immune system are more effective at high temperatures.

An average healthy child will get on average 12-15 viral infections per year in the first few years of life, which means a lot of fevers. It is also common for children to get infected with one virus shortly after recovering from another, and it can seem as if they are sick all the time. This is common during the winter. Fortunately after about 3-4 years of age, the frequency of infection usually reduces by a lot.

Vast majority of the infections/fevers will get better quickly on it’s own and the best treatment is to stay home and rest. We would like to emphasise that viral infections do not respond at all antibiotics!

Sometimes parents should be worried and here are some of the circumstances when you should seek medical attention.

You should seek medical attention promptly if your child has a fever and any of the below

  • is less than 3 months old
  • has a rash that does not blanch when you press on it
  • is breathing more quickly or forcefully then normal or is making a lot of noise when breathing
  • seem to be in lot of pain that is not responding to medications, or is not moving any part of the body, such as neck, arms etc..
  • is extremely sleepy or weak.
  • has persistent vomiting and unable to keep up with fluids, or has less than half the amount of normal wet nappies
  • has fever for more than 3 days. (note it is common for viral symptoms, such as cough to persist after fever settles)
  • or there is something else that just doesn’t seem right to you.  We believe parent’s instincts are often quite valuable. You know your child better than anyone. Call if you are worried.

If non of the above applies, chances are your child has minor viral illness that will settle with time. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can be helpful if your child is in discomfort. However, if your child is acting fine and drinking plenty, it is best not to treat the fever and let the child’s immune system do its job. There is a medical saying, “treat the patient, not the number.” Make sure your child is getting plenty of rest. But  if there are any concerns and your instinct tells you that something isn’t right,  bring your child in for a review.

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